What Happens if TMJ Is Left Untreated?

Team TMJ

TMJ disorder may originate in the jaw, but it causes symptoms that go far beyond the temporomandibular joints. Unfortunately, the longer you leave your TMJ pain untreated, the more likely you are to experience more severe symptoms. At OMA, our doctors are specialists in diagnosing and treating TMJ disorder. This is important—treating TMJ pain requires understanding its origins and developing a customized treatment plan that addresses the underlying cause of your symptoms. 

Below, we discuss some of the consequences of untreated TMJ disorder.

Chronic Jaw Pain and Joint Damage

When you first start experiencing TMJ symptoms, you may have jaw pain that comes and goes—it could be aggravated by stress or even by having a chewy bagel for breakfast. 

Over time, damage to the temporomandibular joint will take its toll, resulting in chronic pain and other symptoms like cracking, popping, and locking of the jaw. The pain may go beyond your joints, with discomfort and inflammation throughout your face and in your neck and shoulders.

Once the bones in your joints are damaged, you may need a surgical solution to relieve your pain. It’s important to take a proactive approach to TMJ pain to prevent permanent joint damage or dislocation of the jaw from occurring.


TMJ disorder often leads to headaches, including tension headaches and migraines. In fact, headaches are one of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder. These headaches can be debilitating and because they are triggered by dysfunction in the joint, they can be chronic—as soon as your pain relievers wear off, your headache returns because the underlying cause is still present. You may miss school, work, and important life events because of your chronic headaches.

Compromised Oral Health

Teeth grinding and clenching are associated with untreated TMJ disorder; these can wear away your tooth enamel over time and leave your teeth susceptible to fractures. In addition, TMJ disorder can cause abnormal wear on the teeth because one side of the jaw is favored over the other. Favoring one side of the jaw can also lead to uneven swelling of the face and asymmetrical muscle development.

Hearing Problems

The temporomandibular joints are located close to the ear canals, which means it’s common for patients to experience symptoms in their ears. If you have unexplained feelings of fullness in your ears, it could be due to your TMJ disorder. Untreated TMJ can cause constant tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, that can disrupt sleep and make it difficult to concentrate. Because our body’s sense of balance is in the inner ears, the inflammation caused by TMJ disorder can impact balance as well, resulting in dizziness, unsteadiness, and vertigo.

Learn More About TMJ Disorder

Do you think you might have TMJ disorder? Our doctors will listen to your symptoms, assess your jaw and bite, and diagnose the underlying cause of your pain in order to determine the best treatment option for your needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for an evaluation.